Why is India hell-bent on hosting G-20 meet in Kashmir? | By Sultan M Hali


Why is India hell-bent on hosting G-20 meet in Kashmir?

NEW Delhi is hosting the third Group of 20 (G20) — an economic cooperation bloc of 19 countries and the European Union — working group meeting on tourism in India Illegally Occupied and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) from 22 to 24 May. The region has been in turmoil over the past seventy six years which came to a boil on 5 August 2019, when India abrogated Articles 370 and 35-A of its Constitution which granted special status to Kashmir and amalgamated IIOJ&K and Ladakh into the Indian Union.

The illegitimate move defied the UN Resolutions which deem Kashmir to be a disputed territory as well as led to the imposition of lockdown in IIOJ&K to deter protests against the drastic move. Kashmiris came out in droves to express their remonstration but were killed or incarcerated. Pakistan objected vehemently and human rights activists around the world also took notice of the draconian steps but slowly and gradually the international protests became a whimper. New Delhi’s rising esteem in the world markets drowned the protests although the agony of the Kashmiris continued unabated.

IIOJ&K residents have been brutally crushed by the Indian army, yet, perhaps in a bid to project to the world that “normalcy” prevails in the Valley, New Delhi is hell-bent on organizing the G20 meet there. It is the first time that a major international event is being held in the region’s largest city after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s unlawful action of August 2019. Various world powers may choose to ignore Indian brutality in Kashmir to further their commercial interests but some journalists and human rights activists, moved by the cries of anguish from the hapless Kashmiris, continue to take cognizance of Indian obduracy.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada has called on the federal government to boycott any G20 meetings that take place in Kashmir, citing the Indian government’s human rights abuses. However, the Trudeau government has reportedly ignored those calls. Michael Kugelman, Director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Centre in the United States, opines that India, by holding the G20 event, wants to claim there is peace in the region. The learned scholar deduces that by organizing the meeting in Srinagar, India is trying to convey a message that “all is well and normal”. He laments that unfortunately, most of the world will accept that false narrative.

The previous week, Fernand de Varennes, the United Nations special rapporteur on minority issues, in a statement — quoted by Aljazeera’s Op-ed titled: ‘Is India projecting ‘normalcy’ in Kashmir by holding G20 meeting?’ — accused India of seeking to normalise the “brutal and repressive denial of democratic and other rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities” by holding a G20 meeting in the disputed region. He declared that the situation in Kashmir “should be decried and condemned and not pushed under the rug and ignored”. The diplomat with a conscience observed on Twitter that the government of India is seeking to normalise what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalising a G20 meeting and portray an international ‘seal of approval’.

The UN rapporteur on minority issues declared that “massive human rights violations” have been reported in Kashmir since it came under New Delhi’s direct rule. “These included torture, extrajudicial killing, denial of political participation rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities,” he added. “The G20 is unwittingly providing a veneer of support to the façade of normalcy at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecution, restrictions and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate,” he stated. Ever since India took over the presidency of the G20 in December last year, the New Delhi government has planned to host a total of 215 G-20 meetings at over 55 locations this year, four of which will be focused on promoting the tourism sector.

The move by India to organize a G20 event in IIOJ&K has been criticized by Pakistan which said New Delhi is exploiting its membership of an important international group to advance its “self-serving” agenda. Slamming India’s choice of venue for the meet, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has declared India’s irresponsible move as the latest in a series of self-serving measures to perpetuate its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir in sheer disregard of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and in violation of the principles of the UN charter and international law. Pakistan stressed that such events cannot hide the reality of Jammu and Kashmir being an internationally recognized dispute that has remained on the agenda of UNSC for over seven decades. Pakistan has lobbied its G20 allies — such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China — to stop the meeting in Srinagar but its credibility has been hampered by domestic political turmoil within the country.

Amnesty International (AI) opined that the Indian Government has drastically intensified repression in Jammu and Kashmir and was using unlawful measures and unjust barriers impeding various rights in the region. AI’s vocal officials have stated that civil society and media in the region have been subjected to a vicious crackdown by the Indian Government which is determined to stifle dissent using draconian laws, policies and unlawful practices in their arsenal. They state that there is a silence achieved on all dissent through heavy-handed repression which has spread fear and uncertainty in the region.

Srinagar based political analysts condemn the Indian action, stating that “a sense of security in any place does not come with conferences”. Many Kashmiris, who have suffered incarceration for raising their voice against Indian oppression believe that hosting an international event in the troubled region was tantamount to putting a lid on their miseries. India should pay heed to US President Abraham Lincoln’s sagacious words that “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” New Delhi’s atrocities in IIOJ&K cannot be brushed under the carpet of G20 moots.

—The writer is a Retired Group Captain of PAF, who has written several books on China.

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